Choosing a Sound Card

Sound adapters fall into two broad categories. Consumer-grade sound adapters are made by companies such as Turtle Beach and Creative Labs and are widely available in retail channels. The better ones, such as the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz, suffice for any purpose for which you are likely to use a sound adapter. Professional-grade sound adapters—made by companies such as Aardvark, Digital Audio Labs, Event, Lucid, and Lynx—cost hundreds of dollars, are intended for professional audio production, have poor retail distribution, and are beyond the scope of this book. For a technical comparison of many models of sound adapters, see

Use the following guidelines when choosing a sound card:

Choose embedded audio, if available, for general use

If you are building a new system or replacing a motherboard on an existing system, choose a motherboard with embedded audio, unless you need enhanced features that are available only with a standalone audio adapter. Recent embedded audio solutions support formerly high-end features such as 3D acceleration, enhanced MIDI functions, and surround sound, so the features you need are probably available with embedded audio. In addition to lower cost, embedded audio is well integrated, which minimizes installation and configuration problems. If you run Linux, check hardware compatibility carefully because Linux often provides limited or no support for recently introduced audio chipsets. ...

Get PC Hardware in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.